Pro-Israel News

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

US State Department reported to say Israelis would ‘twist details’ to undermine negotiations

BY AVI LEWIS February 18, 2015, 3:08 pm | The Times of Isreal| 

European officials have confirmed that the US State Department cautioned them against providing Israel with sensitive information on the current round of negotiations with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The account came amid vehement denials by the White House and State Department that they had stopped updating Jerusalem on the progress in the talks, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted Monday that Israel was indeed being kept in the dark.

The report quoted an unnamed European official involved in negotiations who said he was told recently by the State Department’s Wendy Sherman, the lead American negotiator with Iran, not to disclose too much information to the Israelis because “the details could be twisted to undermine a deal.”

Another unnamed State Department official speaking on Sherman’s behalf noted that talk with Israel was encouraged, so long as it remained clear “that the negotiation should take place in the negotiating room,” a reference to the fact that Israel is not directly involved in the talks.

The comments echoed those of an Israeli official interviewed for the report who quipped that he received only “empty” briefings on the looming deal, signalling perhaps a further chill in ties between the Obama administration and the Jewish state that The New York Times compared to “posting notes to each other on a refrigerator door.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel and that Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons to use against the Jewish state.

To that effect, Netanyahu vowed to go ahead with a speech before the US Congress on March 3 to discuss the looming nuclear deal, raising the ire of the White House, some US congressmen and his political opponents in Israel.

The report quoted another European official who said that US Secretary of State John Kerry was “fuming about [the] Israeli leaks” following a report Sunday on Channel 2 to the effect that the administration has been withholding information from Israel.

According to the TV report, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had cut off contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, while Sherman was quoted as saying that she will no longer keep Israel informed either.

The report was hurriedly denied by both US and Israeli officials.

Kerry, who has been leading the negotiations along with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, argued that it was in no one’s interest to negotiate in public.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

No responsible PM could refuse invitation to speak to Congress on issue that threatens israel’s survival, he tells visiting US Jewish leaders

BY TAMAR PILEGGI February 16, 2015, 11:33 pm Updated: February 17, 2015, 7:34 am | The Times of Israel|

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched thinly veiled criticism at the Obama administration Monday for reportedly withholding information from Israel regarding the ongoing US-led nuclear talks with Iran. He also left no doubt whatsoever that he will go ahead with his controversial speech to congress on March 3, saying that no responsible Israeli prime minister could “refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence” before the world’s most important parliament.

“Just as Iran knows what deal is being outlined in the negotiations, it’s only natural that Israel also know the agreement being drafted,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew at the start of an address to a visiting group from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “But if there is anyone who thinks that this is a good agreement, why should it be hidden?”

On Sunday, Israeli media outlets reported that the Obama administration has decided to keep Israel in the dark regarding the details and progress of the talks, over fears that the Israeli leader is undermining the talks and using the controversy for political gain. Both the White House and State Department categorically denied the reports. But further media reports in the Hebrew press Monday quoted unnamed sources on both sides saying the US is indeed changing the flow of information to Israel over the negotiations.

Netanyahu, who continued his address in English, went on to reiterate the importance of his addressing US lawmakers concerning the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, leaving no doubt whatsoever that he would proceed with the speech despite criticism from the White House; President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet him during the trip because of its proximity to Israel’s March 17 elections, and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the Congressional speech citing a prior unspecified overseas commitment.

He called his upcoming March 3 speech before Congress an “obligation,” and said he would “do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu warned: “The current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel. It would enable Iran to break out to its first nuclear device within an unacceptably short time. And it would allow Iran to build an industrial capability to enrich uranium that could provide the fuel for many bombs in the coming years. A regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction would thus have finally the means to realize its genocidal aims.”

He stressed he was “not opposed to any deal with Iran. I’m opposed to a bad deal with Iran. And I believe this is a very bad deal. I’m certainly not opposed to negotiations. On the contrary – no country has a greater interest, a greater stake, in the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear question than does Israel. But the current proposal will not solve the problem,” he said. “It will perpetuate and aggravate the problem. It would provide a path for Iran to become a nuclear power. And therefore it’s very important that I speak about this in Washington.”

He said he had to speak in Congress “because Israel has been offered the opportunity to make its case on this crucial issue before the world’s most important parliament; because a speech before Congress allows Israel to present its position to the elected representatives of the American people and to a worldwide audience; because Congress has played a critical role in applying pressure to the Iranian regime – the very pressure that has brought the ayatollahs to the negotiating table in the first place; and because Congress may very well have a say on the parameters of any final deal with Iran. That’s why I’m going to Congress.”

He said “the real question,” in fact, was “how could any responsible Israeli prime minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel’s survival? How could anyone refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence when such an invitation is offered?”

And the speech had to come right away “because the deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran is March 24th. That’s the date that drives the speech. Now is the time for Israel to make its case – now before it’s too late.”

He asked: “Would it be better to complain about a deal that threatens the security of Israel after it’s signed? I believe it’s more responsible to speak out now to try to influence the negotiations while they’re still ongoing. I think the whole point of Zionism is that the Jewish people would no longer be spectators to the decision-making that determines our fate. Remember, we were once powerless. We were once voiceless. We couldn’t even speak on our own behalf. Well, we can and we do now.”

Responding to criticisms that his invitation and acceptance were a slight to the US president and Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu insisted: “I don’t see this issue in partisan terms. The survival of Israel is not a partisan issue. It concerns everyone, all the supporters of Israel from every political stripe. The fight against militant Islamic terrorism is not a partisan issue. The battle against the Islamic State, which just beheaded 21 Christians, is not a partisan issue. And the effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons, that’s not a partisan issue either.”

He went on: “I think the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran is the most urgent security challenge facing the world. I think the greatest danger facing humanity is the possibility that any movement or any regime of militant Islam will arm itself with the weapons of mass destruction. Everything that we see in our region now will pale by comparison. Everything that we see in Europe will pale by comparison. When a militant Islamic regime that is rampaging through the region right now – that’s what Iran is doing, it’s conducting a rampage through the region – when such a regime has nuclear weapons, the whole world will be in peril.

“Look at what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons,” he urged. “States are collapsing. And Iran is plunging forward. It’s already controlling four capitals. It’s controlling now through its Houthi proxies the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits. It’s trying to envelope Israel with three terrorist tentacles – Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas in Gaza and now it’s trying to build with its Hezbollah proxies a third front in the Golan. Such a regime with nuclear weapons would be infinitely more dangerous to everyone, not only to Israel.”

He said he could not “guarantee” that his speech in Congress will prevent a dangerous deal with Iran from being signed. “Honestly, I don’t know. No one knows. But I do know this – it’s my sacred duty as prime minister of Israel to make Israel’s case. On March 3rd, I’ll fulfill that duty, representing all the citizens of Israel before the two houses of Congress. And I will make the best case for Israel that I can, knowing that our case is just, that our case is sound, and that our case offers the best hope to resolve this issue peacefully.”

Congress will vote on March 24 on the Iran sanctions deal, a week ahead of a March 31 deadline for an agreement in principle in the P5+1 talks with Tehran.

Diplomatic relations between the two allies have reached new lows in past weeks over the invitation to address Congress, which bypassed the White House. Netanyahu accepted an invitation last month from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to speak to Congress, but the White House complained that Boehner had not cleared the invitation in advance with Obama or Democrats in Congress. Boehner later acknowledged this was the case, saying he hadn’t wanted the White House to intervene.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, in return for an easing of economic sanctions.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Yuval Steinitz says all options are still on table, blasts proposed nuclear deal as ‘full of loopholes’

BY AFP February 12, 2015, 5:20 pm | The Times of Israel| 


Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned Thursday that Israel could act unilaterally against Iran over its nuclear drive, saying Tehran has failed to make concessions in talks with world powers.

“I won’t be too specific but all options are still on the table,” Steinitz told reporters.

“We never limited Israel’s right of self-defense because of some diplomatic constraints,” he said.

Significant gaps remain between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on specific measures to end a 12-year standoff on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed, since an interim accord was struck in November 2013.

The P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — have now set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.

It would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30

Iran denies seeking an atomic bomb and says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

Steinitz said Iran has so far shown little or no flexibility on key issues such as uranium enrichment, destruction of related infrastructure and the fate of its Arak nuclear reactor and Fordo secret underground enrichment facility.

“Its a gloomy picture,” said Steinitz, adding that he discussed it at last week’s security conference in Munich with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano.

“The Iranians didn’t move much… therefore we are so disturbed,” he said.

Steinitz said the agreement being thrashed out was “full of loopholes.”

If there is an agreement reached by the end of March, he warned, it will be an agreement that does not include many concessions on the Iranian side.

“If this is the picture, how much can it change in one month?”

US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich conference and stressed Washington’s commitment to seeing the deadline met.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted he has a “profound disagreement” with US President Barack Obama over the Iranian nuclear issue.

Washington and Iran are now seen as the key players of any potential deal


Thursday, February 12, 2015
By Jennifer Rubin February 11 at 1:43 PM  Follow @JRubinBlogger| The Washington Post| 

The Times of Israel reports: “Asked whether they trust the US president to ensure Iran not get the bomb, an overwhelming 72% do not, compared to 64% in our January 2014 survey. Israeli voters give Obama a 33% favorable and 59% unfavorable rating.” And this is not the case just in the prime minister’s Likud party: “Across all ideological groups, a majority does not trust Obama to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon. Among undecided voters, the distrust is slightly deeper, with 17% saying they trust Obama and 76% saying they do not. Even among those voters who said they had a favorable opinion of Obama, 45% said they trusted him on Iran and 47% said they did not. Arab-Israelis were split evenly, with 42% saying they trusted Obama and 42% saying they did not.” Incidentally, the poll also confirms that the economy, not Iran, remains the top concern for Israeli voters.

The administration has long suggested that the problem in the U.S.-Israel relationship is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The response of the Israeli people however suggests that the problem is Obama, who is the least pro-Israel president in history. The Israelis don’t have the luxury of self-delusion as Obama’s liberal supporters do. From the vantage point of their very rough neighborhood, they see the administration capitulating at every turn to Iran. Israel, like its Sunni neighbors, notices serial concessions on Iran that will leave Arab neighbors with no choice but enter into a nuclear arms race. And they see Obama’s passivity in the face of aggression by Iran and its proxies and allies.

Democrats here who think this is about their own domestic politics (i.e. defending the president against the speaker and/or an unruly Israel politician) should think again. The Anti-Defamation League condemns liberal group J Street’s role: “At the height of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress, J Street’s petition campaign that attempts to distance itself and American Jews from Israel’s duly elected prime minister is inflammatory and repugnant and exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran.” The statement continues on: “Let’s remember what is at stake: Preventing extremist Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel’s very existence.  In that goal, Mr. Netanyahu surely does represent not only Israelis but American Jews as well.”

Indeed it is not Israeli voters who will be influenced by events here — they already have made up their minds about Obama. It is rather Israel’s enemies in Tehran, Damascus and elsewhere that will be delighted to see one of the two major political parties turn its back on the elected leader of the Jewish state. In a joint statement, Bill Kristol of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel and Gary Bauer of Christians United for Israel said:

The bottom line is simple: The enemies of Israel benefit most from this campaign against the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. Whatever their views on Israeli politics or the Iranian nuclear negotiations, members of Congress who are friends of Israel should not play into the hands of Israel’s enemies — and America’s — by boycotting this speech. Boycotting Israel is high on the agenda of the enemies of Israel. Welcoming Israel’s Prime Minister to the halls of Congress is the least that those who claim to be friends of the Jewish state should do.

“As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.”

Democrats sensitive about their parties’ declining support for Israel (born out in a slew of polls) keep complaining that Israel is being “politicized.” There would be no issue if the Democratic Party and the president returned to the party’s historic role as pro-Israel. But behaving as the president does and as boycotters of the speech intend to, they cannot expect others not to notice. There would be no political advantage for the GOP if Democrats’ were equally supportive of Israel and equally critical of the president’s Iran folly. And if conservatives here and the Israeli electorate notice, you can bet the mullahs do. And by the way, I wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks? She might want to rethink her whole third-term strategy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

By HERB KEINONMICHAEL WILNERLAHAV HARKOV \02/10/2015 20:28| The Jerusalem Post| 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fending off criticism at home and abroad, said on Tuesday he remained determined to speak before the US Congress next month on Iran's nuclear program.
"I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran," he said.
He said Israel had a profound disagreement with the world powers negotiating with Iran because their offer "would enable Iran to threaten Israel's survival".
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Netanyahu is due to address a joint session of Congress about Iran's nuclear program on March 3, just two weeks before Israeli elections, following an invitation from John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house.
Boehner's invitation has caused consternation in both Israel and the United States, with detractors saying Netanyahu, a hawk on Iran, is working with the Republicans to thumb their noses at President Barack Obama's policy on Iran.
It is also seen as putting Netanyahu's political links to the Republicans ahead of Israel's nation-to-nation ties with the United States, its strongest and most important ally, while serving as a pre-election campaign booster.
Obama on Monday defended his decision not to meet with Netanyahu during his upcoming Washington visit as following basic protocol of not meeting with world leaders just weeks before an election.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

 Right­wing organization urges colleagues ‘not to act like the Jewish leaders of the 1930s’ 

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND JTA February 10, 2015, 6:25 am 
T he right­wing Zionist Organization of America suggested Monday that some AmericanJewish groups’ behavior surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress is similar to that of the “Jewish leaders of the 1930s,” in reference to the lack of unity and organization in the American­Jewish community in the years leading up to and during the Holocaust.
 ZOA President Morton Klein issued a statement criticizing the Anti­Defamation League, president of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs and J Street for their call to have Netanyahu cancel the speech and the American Jewish Committee and AIPAC for “their deafening silence on the issue.” The PM’s planned address has caused an uproar over the past few weeks. In it, Netanyahu is set to warn against a deal with Iran that would enable it to become a nuclear threshold state. The timing, arrangements and likely content of the speech have infuriated the Obama administration and some congressional Democrats.
The president is strongly pushing for a nuclear deal with Iran through the P5+1 world powers. Klein went on to argue that Iran was a “serious and frightening existential issue for the Jewish State,” and that time to warn of a bad deal with Iran was of the essence. “We must never again be the Jews of appeasement and paralyzing fear. We must publicly state that President Obama is endangering America and Israel by his delaying and delaying on stopping Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
Klein urged his colleagues from other Jewish­American groups to support Netanyahu and to  provide him with this “major forum to move us, to edify us, to inspire us to do more to stop this Nazi­like radical Islamic Republic of Iran from achieving weapons that could murder millions of Jews, Christians, Americans, Europeans and others.” By not supporting Netanyahu, Klein went on, “we are sending a terrible message to Iran that we are not unified and strong in our resolve against this deadly enemy.” “We dare not act like the Jewish leaders of the 1930s. The time to act to support the prime minister of Israel is now.”
Over the weekend, Jacobs, the highest official in Reform Judaism, urged Netanyahu to cancel his upcoming speech to Congress, adding his voice to a growing list of American Jewish leaders calling for him to reconsider the controversial appearance. Jacobs said calling off the March 3 address will be “something people will respect [Netanyahu] for.” In an interview with The Jewish Daily Forward, Jacobs termed the address “ill­advised” and a “bad idea.” “I would want him to re­think it,” Jacobs said on Friday. “He should find another way to express his voice.” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti­Defamation League, and Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, also called on Netanyahu to cancel the address. Foxman, a prominent Jewish­American leader, said that while Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran were serious, the political furor over the speech “turned the whole thing into a circus.”
“Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions,” Foxman told the Jewish Daily Forward on Friday. Reich appealed to the prime minister to “bite the bullet and postpone his address.” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, meanwhile, downplayed concerns that Netanyahu’s speech would cause further tension in US­Israel ties. “Israel cannot be a partisan issue,” Hoenlein said. “I do not think the prime minister’s speech will do what people think. He did not come to attack the president or take sides.”
Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure to scrap the speech, both at home and in the US.Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the speech or meet with Netanyahu during his visit. Biden’s office announced Friday that he would not attend, claiming he was scheduled to travel abroad at that time.Obama and US Secretary of Kerry said shortly after the speech was announced on January 20 that they would not meet with Netanyahu, citing the proximity to Israeli elections set for March 17. A Channel 10 news report Saturday indicated that some 60 Democratic legislators were expected to stay away from the address.
Netanyahu remains determined to go ahead with the address, to highlight the dangers of a deal that would leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. “At a time when there are those who would deal with protocol and politics, an agreement with Iran is taking shape in Munich that would risk Israel’s existence,” Netanyahu said on Twitter on Monday, apparently referring to talks over the weekend in the German city between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. “Therefore, I’m determined to travel to Washington and present Israel’s position before Congress and the American people,” he said.
Monday, February 9, 2015

Growing chorus of critics at home and abroad doesn’t dissuade prime minister from US Congress speech


BY AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF February 8, 2015, 10:44 pm| The Times of Israel | 


A national leader’s appearance before the US Congress is usually a source of pride and unity. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned trip to Washington — opposed by the White House and many Democrats — has Israel in uproar. The Israeli leader faces growing calls to cancel the visit as rivals accuse him of risking Israel’s relations with the United States in hopes of winning extra votes in next month’s Israeli parliamentary election. But Netanyahu has shown no signs of backing down, saying Sunday he would “do everything” to prevent US­led international negotiators from reaching a “bad and dangerous agreement” with Iran over its nuclear program. He reiterated that he would “go anywhere” to warn against Israel’s enemies. The US is Israel’s closest and most important ally. While ties remain strong between the nations, relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama are another matter. The two have long had strained personal relations and differ on many policy issues,

with Netanyahu favoring a more confrontational approach to his foes over Obama’s inclination toward diplomacy and compromise. The differences are especially glaring when it comes to the Iranian nuclear issue. Netanyahu has identified a nuclear­armed Iran as the single greatest threat to his country and says its nuclear program must be dismantled. Israeli pressure, featuring barely veiled threats to attack Iran if necessary, is credited by many here as having focused world attention on the issue and spurred economic sanctions against Iran. THETIMES  Despite pressure, Netanyahu says he'll 'go anywhere' to denounce Iran.

Obama has vowed to prevent Iran from developing a bomb but has signaled he’s willing to tolerate certain activities, such as uranium enrichment, a technology that Israel fears could quickly be diverted for weapons use. The US and five global partners hope to reach a preliminary deal with Iran by March. Cabinet Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, acknowledged differences between Netanyahu and Obama over Iran.

“Netanyahu feels that he has been fighting for years and now we are nearing a critical moment,” Katz told Channel 2 TV. Fearful that Obama is about to reach a “bad deal,” Netanyahu jumped at the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israel’s general election. The invitation was issued by the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, and engineered by Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative. Dermer was set to arrive in Israel Sunday night to consult with Netanyahu about the prime minister’s upcoming US visit.

The decision to speak before Congress has triggered an outpouring of anger in both countries. The White House views the planned visit as a breach of protocol, because it was not coordinated well ahead of time with the US administration, which learned about it just before it was made public. The White House also cited the close proximity of the election as the reason Obama wouldn’t meet Netanyahu, saying the president wanted to avoid the appearance of taking sides. US officials also fear that the speech could upset the delicate talks with Iran. Several Democrats have said they would skip the speech, while others, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have suggested that Netanyahu should postpone it. Biden’s office said the vice president would miss the address.

Despite the stated American intention to stay out of Israeli domestic politics, Biden found the time to meet Netanyahu’s chief rival, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, on the sidelines of a security conference in Germany. Abe Foxman, director of the Anti­Defamation League, a leading Jewish American group, has urged Netanyahu to call off the visit. The pro­Israel lobby group AIPAC also has reservations because it is turning into a partisan event, according to a person involved in U.S.­Israel relations.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Israeli leaders across the political spectrum almost universally support Netanyahu’s tough line toward Iran. But many opposition figures, including Herzog, have criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the congressional speech, describing it as a cheap election stunt that would only undermine support for Israel in Washington.

Herzog’s running mate, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said Netanyahu was damaging ties with the US “for the sake of an election speech.” Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said Netanyahu was causing “serious damage” to American ties and urged him to stay home. Even some of Netanyahu’s sympathizers are saying he’s misjudged the situation. “You’re right, but don’t go,” said the headline in a front­page commentary by columnist Ben­Dror Yemini in the Yediot Ahronot daily. “Obama is wrong and you’re right. But if there is any chance of budging him from his position, then you are making every possible mistake and turning him into an adversary.”

Michael Oren, who served as Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington until 2013, said that if he were still in the post, he would have advised his boss not to address Congress. “The last thing you want is for support of the Jewish state to become the monopoly of one party,” said Oren, who is now running for parliament with a newly formed centrist party. He said Netanyahu would do better to deliver his speech to the annual conference of AIPAC, which is attended by many members of congress.

You get the same effect without running the same risk,” he told The Associated Press. Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul­general in New York, called the planned visit a “horrendous idea” that demonstrated how poor Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama has become. Yet he argued that the uproar did serve Netanyahu’s ambition to remain prime minister by focusing public debate on Iran — and away from domestic bread­and­butter issues that hurt his party’s chances of retaining power. Recent polls predict a tight race. “This is not about Iran,” he said. “This is 100 percent about elections.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

By HERB KEINON \02/05/2015 18:26| The Jerusalem Post| 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday and extended his condolences to him and the Jordanian people following Islamic State’s grisly murder of captive Jordanian pilot Mouath al-Kaseasbeh.

Netanyahu said that all civilized people were “shocked by this barbaric cruelty, which the world must fight.”

Thursday’s phone call marks the first time the two have spoken since they met in Amman in November, together with US Secretary of State John Kerry, at the height of tension surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It is unlikely the Prime Minister’s Office would have released a read-out of the call without the approval of the Royal Palace in Jordan which, apparently, had no qualms about the call being made public even on a day when the country’s pilots were carrying out sorties against Islamic State positions in Syria.

During their conversation,Netanyahu noted the importance of the “joint commitment to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites.” He also mentioned the importance of Jordan’s decision earlier this week to send back to Israel its ambassador, Walid Obeidat, recalled in November.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

After brutal execution of Jordanian pilot, lawmakers support legislation increasing assistance to the Hashemite Kingdom 

BY AP February 4, 2015, 6:52 pm| The Times of Israel | 
WASHINGTON — Congressional support built Wednesday for increased US military assistance to Jordan following a video purporting to show
Islamic State militants burning a captured Jordanian air force pilot to death. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Jordan’s King Abdullah II —
who met with lawmakers and with President Barack Obama on Tuesday — must be given “all of the military equipment” he needs to combat the group.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected his panel to swiftly approve legislation. “We’ll be looking at legislation
we can pass rapidly,” McCain told CNN. “We’ve got to get them the weapons they need,” especially sophisticated weaponry McCain said the U.S. has been slow
to provide. In the current year, the United States is providing Jordan with $1 billion in economic and military assistance.
The Defense Department is also giving an unspecified amount of help to Jordan to secure its border with Syria. Islamic militants have grabbed significant
swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. McCain repeated his criticism that the Obama administration has “no strategy” for dealing with the Islamic State group.
He said he hoped the video of the death of the Jordanian air force pilot, Lt. Muaz Kasasbeh, will galvanize not only U.S. leadership but “the Arab world.” Manchin
said that at Tuesday’s session with the king Abdullah did not ask for ground troops. On the House side, Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R­Texas,
said the king “expressed frustration that it takes so long for our bureaucracy to get help to him.”
 “I think we have to support the leaders … who are trying to encourage Muslim leaders to reclaim their religion,” Thornberry said. Appearing Wednesday morning with Manchin on
MSNBC, Thornberry said he hopes the death of the 26­year­old Jordanian pilot has an impact on the West because “that sort of cruelty is pretty unimaginable for most of us.” Obama
hosted Abdullah at the White House for a hastily arranged meeting, hours after the video emerged online. Abdullah, who was on a previously scheduled trip to Washington, arrived after
nightfall and made no remarks to reporters as he and Obama sat side by side in the Oval Office. In the meeting, Obama offered “his deepest condolences” to the king over the pilot’s death,
the White House said.
“The president and King Abdullah reaffirmed that the vile murder of this brave Jordanian will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL,” said White House
spokesman Alistair Baskey, using an acronym for the extremist group. Kasasbeh, who fell into the hands of the militants in December when his Jordanian F­16 crashed in Syria, is the only
pilot from the US­led coalition to have been captured to date. His death sparked outrage in Jordan, where the country’s participation in the coalition against the Islamic State group has not been popular.
The video emerged following a weeklong drama over a possible prisoner exchange with an al­Qaida operative imprisoned in Jordan. 
Wednesday, February 4, 2015

By JNS.ORG |02/04/2015 15:57 | The Jerusalem Post| 

Since its founding in 2006, CUFI has held more than 2,100 pro-Israel events, sent hundreds of thousands of advocacy emails to government officials, and trained thousands of college students.


“Usually after the first event, it’s like a firestorm,” said Pastor Scott Thomas, the Florida state director for Christians United for Israel (CUFI). “The excitement hits, the understanding settles in.”

That, in short, illustrates the process through which CUFI has become America’s largest pro-Israel organization in less than a decade of existence. In January, CUFI announced that its membership surpassed the 2-million mark. (The organization defines members as email-list subscribers whose addresses do not produce bounce-backs when messaged.) 
Since its founding in 2006, CUFI has held more than 2,100 pro-Israel events, sent hundreds of thousands of advocacy emails to government officials, and trained thousands of college students to make the case for Israel across the US. 
Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and national chairman, said that when he called 400 Evangelical Christian leaders to San Antonio in 2006 to pitch them on the idea of CUFI, he thought his concept of pro-Israel programming that would “not be conversionary in any sense of the word” might deter the leaders. Instead, when he asked them to raise their hands if they accepted his proposal, “400 men raised their hands with an absolute unity that was breathtaking.”
“It was one of those surreal moments that was difficult to believe had happened so effortlessly, and Christians United for Israel took off,” Hagee told at the 10th annual CUFI Leadership Summit in San Antonio on Jan. 27.
While Hagee planned for the initial group of 400 leaders to advocate for Israel on Capitol Hill that summer as a “test group,” the leaders spread the word among their own churches, and CUFI ended up bringing 3,500 people on the mission to Washington, DC. 
CUFI continues to grow exponentially, but Hagee isn’t satisfied. He said the organization hopes to double its membership to 4 million over the next two to three years.
“We are very delighted with our 2 million-plus membership base, but we want it to be many multiples of that,” said Hagee. “We feel that it’s imperative [to understand] that our ability to go to Washington representing 8-10 million people would be considerably greater than just 2 million.”
What’s the secret behind CUFI’s growth?
“It kind of happens organically,” Thomas, the Florida state director, told “It happens from all different angles. We’ll get a phone call from somebody who attends a congregation and says, ‘Hey, I would like for my pastor to receive information about CUFI.’ And so we’ll send out information packets to those pastors to start the conversation. We’ll introduce them to CUFI, tell them what the events are like and what CUFI stands for. And then hopefully beyond that, we’ll be able to generate a follow-up phone call, introduce CUFI [to the pastor] verbally, answer any questions he might have, and find out what his perspective and stance and theology are on Israel.”
From there, CUFI offers to host a “Standing with Israel” event at that pastor’s church, an approximately hour-long educational and informational session on the biblical roots of Christian support for Israel as well as current events in the Middle East. Eventually, the goal is to facilitate a larger program called “A Night to Honor Israel”—CUFI’s signature event, which the organization aims to host in every major US city each year.
“A Night to Honor Israel,” however, significantly predates CUFI. Hagee said that in 1981, he sought to organize the event as a one-time gesture to thank Israel for bombing Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. But then Hagee received death threats, as well as a bomb threat to the venue on the night of the event. His response? More than three decades of Nights to Honor Israel.
“I told my wife, we’re going to do a Night to Honor Israel until these anti-Semitic rednecks get used to it,” Hagee said. “And 34 years later, it has grown all over the nation.”
Pastor Tim Burt, CUFI’s Minnesota state director, recalled that CUFI began to gain momentum in that state after “a very effective and successful Night to Honor Israel.” 
“I identified leaders in cities that very much had a passion for the support of Israel, and I began to meet with those leaders, raising up city leaders [for CUFI] throughout Minnesota… and [discussing] how they could have an impact within their city and spheres of influence,” Burt told
CUFI has now three-dozen city leaders in Minnesota. After CUFI took 16 pastors of African-rooted Minnesota churches on a trip to Israel last year, one of the pastors on that trip organized a trip of his own for 16 more pastors.
“It’s starting to snowball in that respect,” Burt said.
Aiding the “snowball effect” for CUFI is America’s predominantly Christian population. Former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who attended the CUFI Leadership Summit, noted the “growing market” and “strong foundation” for Christian support of Israel.
“I think in light of the attacks and the aggressiveness that we see against the Jewish state, we’re going to see more and more Christians who are going to see a vehicle wherein they can demonstrate their support for the Jewish state, and I think Christians United for Israel is that obvious vehicle,” Bachmann told
Before CUFI, despite the presence of a “reservoir of instinctive support for Israel” in America, that base of support “had a hard time finding a way to express itself,” said CUFI board member Gary Bauer, the US Under Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.
“As CUFI was set up, and Pastor Hagee and [his wife] Diana had this vision, and others joined with them, and then as time passed and people saw us speaking up, whether the president was a Republican or a Democrat, or whether there was Republican Congress or a Democratic Congress, I think the word spread,” Bauer told “If you were pro-Israel, if you care about the alliance between these two great nations, and you want to do something, but you live in Toledo or Knoxville or Birmingham or Sacramento… this is the organization you can invest in and feel confident that you’re not going to wake up one morning and see an embarrassing story.”
Pastor Victor Styrsky, CUFI’s eastern regional coordinator, echoed Bauer’s sentiment.
“We’d bring Jews and Christians together [before CUFI existed],” Styrsky told “We didn’t call them Nights to Honor Israel, but we were doing those, and rallies, and we were emptying savings accounts, running full-page ads, and we had no CUFI to keep it going, so we would literally disappear for years.”
Styrsky said that now, when he speaks to pastors on behalf of CUFI, “Almost always at the end of 45 minutes to an hour, we see the light bulbs go off, and a new journey has begun. … That’s how we keep going.”
Inclusiveness is also part of growth strategy at CUFI, which is “not targeting a specific demographic in terms of ethnicity,” said Pastor Dumisani Washington, the organization’s diversity outreach coordinator. 
“My job is to begin to reach out to everyone, and try our best to let them know that we want them here, and let them know that there’s a home here for whoever they are ethnically, if they are standing with Israel as Christians,” Washington said.
Bauer said CUFI supporters “can come to the table with all kinds of faith perspectives, and in some cases with no faith perspective at all.”
“We take those allies wherever we can get them, but we continue to do our harvesting in the church community, where we know there’s a natural predilection or bias towards standing with Israel based on the teachings of the Christian faith,” he said.
Kasim Hafeez, who addressed the CUFI Leadership Summit crowd on his jihadist-turned-Zionist personal story, offered an outsider’s perspective on both the success of CUFI and why the organization is a frequent target of anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic criticism.
“Here’s why [anti-Semites] hate CUFI, and one simple word explains it all: fear,” Hafeez said.
While anti-Semites believe they can easily bully Jews, he said, CUFI’s mobilization of the much larger Christian community is more imposing.
“What the haters didn’t see was 2015, over 2 million Christians praying for Israel… Mark my words, there is no organization, there are no four letters, that will make an anti-Semite’s blood run cold more than C-U-F-I,” said Hafeez.
Moving forward, how will CUFI meet its aforementioned goal of doubling its membership to 4 million within three years?
“The specific step that we will have to take is to raise the funds to hire more regional directors and state directors,” Hagee told “We need more people in the field meeting and training pastors and concerned Christians how to become a leader in this organization for the benefit of Israel.”
CUFI is also bolstering its overseas presence, with plans to start a United Kingdom branch. Hagee said that in the UK, CUFI would combat anti-Semitism by soliciting the help of spiritual and government leaders “to look this evil tidal wave eye to eye and call it what it is, and get people to admit that a very lackadaisical attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel have created this monster that must be addressed.”
Hagee emphasized the biblical mandate to fight anti-Semitism, quoting the verse from Isaiah 61, “For Zion’s sake, I will not keep quiet, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not be silent.”
“The message here is that Christians are to speak out, publicly, in defense of the Jewish people and the state of Israel, that we are authorized to combat anti-Semitism as aggressively as we possibly can,” said Hagee.
He added, “If you took away the Jewish contribution from Christianity, there would be no Christianity, so fundamentally, Christians owe the Jewish people everything. Period. Once a person sees that, he’s committed to take action in defense of the Jewish people.”